Seamus Buckley, principal at Coláiste Treasa in Kanturk, said he was fearful that sooner or later one of his pupils would fall over the small wall on the 300-year-old bridge near his school. The school’s parents’ association is so concerned it priced putting up a safety railing and is prepared to foot the €3,500 bill itself.
However, the bridge is a protected structure under law and this might preclude such work being carried out.
Mr Buckley said that around three years ago the county council put a raised footpath on the bridge to protect pupils from passing traffic. But because the footpath was so high it effectively made the protective wall a lot lower.
“It (the wall) is now 680mm (2.23ft) high whereas the regulation is 1,100mm (3.6ft). I have 447 students at the school and more than 300 would cross that bridge every day,” Mr Buckley said.
Although the footpath was high, he said, it was not wide enough to allow two people to walk abreast.
“Many of the students have big bags on their backs and that creates a much higher centre of gravity. It’s quite likely somebody will topple over the bridge,” Mr Buckley said.
“I know it’s a protected structure, but it’s my job to protect the students. It’s scary to see students walking over it with virtually no protection,” the principal added.
If a student was to fall over the wall they would drop approximately five metres into the shallow bed of the River Dallau. Near the bridge there are a lot of boulders and rocks protruding from the water.
Mr Buckley told council officials this week he wanted to see some sort of handrail erected to protect the children.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen. The parents’ association feel so strongly about it they are willing to pay for it.”
Mr Buckley suggested that if the bridge wall couldn’t be interfered with due to being a protected structure, maybe safety railings could be embedded into the relatively new footpath.
Several north Cork councillors have backed Mr Buckley’s call and urged their officials to act as speedily to the request as possible. Cllr Gerard Murphy (FG) said while heritage was important it couldn’t be allowed to interfere with people’s safety.
Council engineers said they would talk to the local authority’s heritage officer to see if they could find a solution to the problem.